I started looking up high-fructose corn syrup after those dubious propogandacommercials about how “everything’s OK guys.” (I agree with the poster of the video that it does seem akin to a tobacco commercial.) Turns out it’s worse than I thought.
I knew that import tariffs made sugar expensive and have driven producers to use corn (cheap and abundant here in the US) for sugar. I recently learned that fructose (and thus high-fructose corn syrup) more or less suppress the body’s hormonal signals to stop one’s appetite. (And, for my own part, I knew that it caused problems with my own energy and headaches.)
What I didn’t know was the sugar industry’s and our government’s effect on ethanol and alternative fuels:
Our current policy is absurd even by Washington standards: Congress is paying billions in subsidies to get us to use more ethanol, while keeping in place tariffs and quotas that guarantee that we’ll use less. And while most of the time tariffs just mean higher prices and reduced competition, in the case of ethanol the negative effects are considerably greater, leaving us saddled with an inferior and less energy-efficient technology and as dependent as ever on oil-producing countries.
(I understand that ethanol may not be the proverbial basket in which we put all of our proverbial eggs; apparently too much reliance on corn could drive up food prices.)
And regardless of the timing though, this is no partisan affair:
A recent study by Amani Elobeid and Simla Tokgoz, scientists at Iowa State University, projected that if the tariffs were removed prices would fall by fourteen per cent and Americans would use almost three hundred million gallons more of ethanol.
But that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon: the Bush Administration proposed eliminating the ethanol tariff this past spring, but Congress quickly quashed the idea — Barack Obama was among several Midwestern senators who campaigned in support of the tariff — and the sugar quotas appear to be as sacrosanct as ever. Tariffs and quotas are extremely hard to get rid of, once established, because they create a vicious circle of back-scratching — government largesse means that sugar producers get wealthy, giving them lots of cash to toss at members of Congress, who then have an incentive to insure that the largesse continues to flow.
We’re protecting domestic corn farmers, but in a very odd way and with odd consequences.